Zeta Soror Kate McConnell Helps Darthmouth Win SWAC Bowling Title
It was a very busy, emotional and exciting year for 20-year-old Kate McConnell of Dartmouth.
During her sophomore year at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., her bowling team won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title, but it didn’t come easily.
Last March 4, 5, and 6 in Bessemer, Ala., six of the eight SWAC teams competed for the title. Southern was ranked third.
On the first day of the three-day tournament, there were single games played to set up for the stepladder matches on Saturday.
“We finished last,” said McConnell. “We weren’t together as a team.”
Things changed on the second day.
Coming off its last-place finish the day before, Southern University had to bowl every other team there in the Baker style format (five bowlers each bowled two frames). McConnell bowled fourth as second anchor.
“We won every match,” she said. “It wasn’t even close.”
That set them up for the television finals on the last day which was taped for showing on ESPN two weeks later.
They would be bowling Prairie View from Texas, whom they beat last year to make it to the finals (Southern eventually lost).
“I thought it would be easy,” McConnell said, “but I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
On Sunday, her team arrived early at the lanes and they waited for the television commentators to arrive. One of them was Professional bowler Carolyn Dorin-Ballard. The girls did interviews prior to bowling.
“We just wanted to relax,” she said, “but it was hard watching all the cameras being set up and the lanes that were the championship pair being sectioned off.”
McConnell was trying to be cool. The other girls on the team acted more calmly.
“I was the only one on the team who had never been in this situation,” she said. “Last year was my first year and we didn’t get this far. Back in 2008 and 2009 my team had won the SWAC championship and they all had their championship rings.”
She wanted a ring, too.
During practice things went well. She found her shot and had good timing and rhythm.
“When the match started,” said McConnell, “everything went out the window. It was hot with all the lights and there were camera men all around. My timing was off and the ball was hooking a lot.”
The finals would be the best of seven and she struggled big time.
They were tied 3.5 after the first four games and had to go to a sudden death roll-off. It would be five frames Baker style.
“Because I was struggling,” she said, “my coach moved me from fourth place to second and told me to use my spare ball for my strike ball. I did as she told me, didn’t understand it, but I did it anyway.”
Southern University, because it was the top seed in the tournament, got to choose the lane to bowl on.
“We always seem to win when we bowl on lane 26,” said McConnell, “so that’s the lane we chose.”
Prairie View started with a strike and then got an open frame. Southern started with a strike and then it was McConnell’s turn.
“I tugged the ball,” she said, “and it sailed so far left of the head pin, I thought it was all over. The six and 10 ten pins were standing and another pin came over and knocked them down for a strike. I started screaming and hollering and running around. I knew then everything would be all right.”
It was, as Southern went on to strike again as Prairie View had another open frame.
“I got my ring,” said McConnell. “It was the best experience that I’ve ever had.”
While bowling on the team last year, she was able to maintain a 3.1 GPA in her classes to put her on the Dean’s List.
She also pledged into a sorority, the Zeta Phi Beta.
McConnell brought her bowling average up to a 195 this year which increased her scholarship for her junior year.
“If I can bring my average up another five pins next year,” she said, “my senior year will be on a full scholarship.”
This summer she’s working on her confidence and getting back to basics in her bowling.
“I don’t feel my game is where it should be,” she said. “I’m watching videos, practicing, going to the gym and keeping a journal.”
She’s also in contact with Professional bowler Kelly Kulick who’s been a big help.
McConnell’s been bowling 15 years, starting in the junior program at the former Bowlers Country Club. She moved to Wonder Bowl when BCC closed. She has a 270 career-high game and a 698 high series.
Her college team would like to bowl more NCAA Tournaments, but it’s not in the budget.
“The coaches have a choice with the little money they have,” said McConnell, “to pay scholarships and bowl as many SWAC teams as they can. Or, bowl a few NCAA teams, and not many SWAC teams.”
So, they usually opt to travel less and bowl more SWAC teams.
“We won championships without being sponsored,” she said. “That’s good, but we’d like to get some sponsorship money. Bowling doesn’t generate money for the school like other sports do. We make do with what we have.”
They’ve set up a Booster Club to raise money. It’s a 501c (tax refundable) charity. The website firstname.lastname@example.org. On the facebook page, they have fundraising events. The facebook page iswww.facebook.com/subowling.
“We basically have no uniforms and we buy all of our own equipment,” said McConnell. “Each of us would like to raise $300 for uniforms and equipment.”
She can’t wait to go back to school for her junior year.
“We will have three new recruits,” she said. “I have high hopes.”
McConnell wants to bowl in the Women’s Open next year, try for Team USA, get her name out there and possibly get sponsored.